Dearest Rachel –
I apologize for giving short shrift to a number of the things that you loved so much; the things that very much defined you, but I wasn’t nearly as into myself, and so I’ve paid little attention to since. I’m sure I’ll go on quite a bit in the next two or three weeks about your passion for swimming, but let me take a moment to go over one of your more terrestrial pursuits.
You always had a thing for games; whenever we’d have friends over, you would always suggest that we play a game after dinner. It was one of the reasons why you kept in touch with people after they moved away, and would make a point of going to visit them (and having them come visit us): so you could keep playing games with them. And in all honesty, the pandemic kind of worked out for us that way, where we would Skype with friends – both near and far – and engage them in a game on Steam. Granted, we would have to agree on what game to play, and even these days, when there’s only two or three of us on the line, we can’t seem to manage that very well. Part of that may have to do with the fact that none of us were as into gaming as you were (and thus had a specific preference at any given time), or maybe each of us just prefer different games from each other, so agreement is just difficult for us by default.
In particular, you were raised on card games rather than board games. I say this in particular to bring up an Internet meme that would otherwise be considered somewhat morbid, but almost appropriate, given your circumstances: there’s discussion about the possibility of putting a small quantity of one’s ashes in a small hourglass-type timer, thus allowing one to be part of ‘family game night’ forever. Except you were never into the kinds of games that required a timer; I think most of your opinion towards them had to do with the fact that you didn’t think you could function well under that kind of pressure. But in all fairness, your parents raised you on card games such as Shanghai rummy, which thankfully didn’t have such a time limit.
And, of course, you found all sorts of other card games over the years – not all of them using a standard deck of playing cards. Indeed, one of the shirts I just sent to be made into a quilt included a layout of Set cards, complete with a key to the ‘sets’ that could be made from said layout. All part of the many things you were a fan of.
All of this can be backed up by the fact that, in our work on cleaning up various rooms in the house (particularly the basement, where you kept all of the games you seemingly ever owned), Jan and I would come across pages and pages of columns painstakingly assembled, showing the scores of all the participants of one game or another as you went through each round of the game. Each column headed with names of people – many of whom have moved away, or are otherwise no longer with us, like yourself.
A fair number of these lists didn’t include me on them. Most of them did, I should point out, but there were some games I just couldn’t bring myself to participate in. Sometimes, it was because – for whatever reason – I simply could not keep track of the rules. Back in college, an older dormmate tried to teach me euchre, so I could join her and several of her friends as a fourth. After the better part of half an hour, and me constantly missing tricks I might otherwise have been able to pick up had I known better, she gave up, and called another friend to fill in. I wasn’t offended; like with the running crowd these days, if hanging out with her required understanding that game to that level, I didn’t consider it worthwhile.
Other times, it was simply because I could not seem to plan a decent strategy, not the way you and Ellen and Kevin could in hand-and-foot, for instance. And the worst thing was, like with so many protracted games (think Monopoly, for instance), I could see defeat coming from the first of four rounds in, only to be stuck playing until the bitter end, and the hole I was in was so deep as to barely see the pinprick of daylight above me. If I didn’t have a chance of winning, what was the fun in playing?
Paradoxically, this made the rare occasions that I did win a game (or even a round) of such a game no fun either, as I knew how awful it was like to be on the other end of the cards all too well. I felt like I had to apologize to everyone for putting them through that round or even the game. So if those were the games you wanted to play, more often than not, I would respectfully decline.
And you were fine with that, as this was one of the main reasons you had friends over on a regular basis (assuming that they were willing to put up with the disarray the house was in. Honestly, it was like living in a very large college dorm room, forever. Which at least had the virtue of allowing both of us to perceive ourselves as that age rather than our actual age for the longest time, but still…); to have a worthy adversary for a given card game. Both Kevin and Ellen could give you a run for your money in most of the ones you tended to favor, while I might fall asleep in the recliner nearby, drained from another day at work.
To be honest, I almost feel like Ellen would be better at writing about these games – you two would play into wee hours while I slept, so she knew so much better what took place. And now that I think about it, she was dealing with her own issues at her workplace, so it’s amazing how she managed to keep up with you on this while I couldn’t.
Of course, not every card game was anathema to me. My name was also on a number of those lists, after all. I could hold my own in a few: Quiddler, Five Crown and especially Cards Against Humanity. But that’s a story for another time. But I need to get going for the day, so I’ll reminisce with you about those a little later on… and maybe lead into some more updates on life after you in the bargain.
Until then, honey, keep an eye out for me (and Daniel).